Chip Jones, Butterfly Gardener of Bedford Avenue
By Ann Sides
At first glance, it looks like a summer meadow; a wildly colorful thicket of goldenrod, phlox, sunflowers, daisies, petunias, cannas, trumpet lily, and huge hibiscus in startling shades of red and yellow. Then you see the little stone path, winding through the greenery, the bird house, the pots and tubs of perennials among the ground-rooted plants. This is a planned garden, designed to look like a slice of un-manicured nature.
“It’s intended to attract butterflies,” explains Chapman “Chip” Jones, the big, soft-spoken creator of this tiny urban wilderness on Bedford Avenue. “Butterflies and hummingbirds.”
“I got the idea from a program I saw on HGTV. They had a show about someone who created a butterfly sanctuary. I love butterflies, and I decided to create a kind of English garden in my front yard, with plants that would attract and nurture them. I planted fennel for them to lay their eggs on, and they feed on the flowers.”
Jones is from an established Oberlin Village family and has lived most of his life in the same home on the 2200 block of Bedford Avenue that was his grandmother’s. Horticulture is his job–he works at Logan’s–and his life’s passion. He is self-taught. His instructors were, he explains, Trial and Error. “It’s a lot of work,” he says. “You really have to enjoy it and want to do it. You visualize what you want to accomplish, and sometimes you’re disappointed. You have to keep trying different things.”
As he speaks, a tiny hummingbird hovers over a flower, plunging its beak into nectar. In a thicket of greenery below, there’s a tiny flash of yellow; a butterfly.
Jones advises other gardeners hoping to attract butterflies to plant Russian sage, parsley, fennel, and butterfly weed.
“Next year I’m thinking of putting in blueberries,” he muses. “And pomegranates.”